Guidelines for Authors

Overview and Purpose:

For more than a decade, the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's NCDC has taken the editorial lead of the annual "State of the Climate" report that appears as a supplement to the June issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). Based upon input and feedback from both editors and contributing authors to this document, the editorial team at NCDC has developed this Author Guide. Our intent is to help the contributing authors by providing basic guidelines for preparing submissions, as well as to improve the editorial and graphical preparation phases of the report. The overall goal is to produce a high-quality article, while also streamlining the process for the editorial staff.

Scope of the document:

The annual report on the State of the Climate is an effort to accurately and comprehensively describe the climate conditions of the preceding calendar year. To that end, the document is divided into seven chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. Global Climate
  3. Global Oceans
  4. Tropics
  5. The Arctic
  6. Antarctica
  7. Regional Climates

and two appendices:

  1. Seasonal Summaries
  2. Dataset Sources

In each chapter, the primary components of the climate system are described for the preceding year, and their values and statistics placed into historical context. Any notable events and/or anomalies are also described. For each section or sub-section, the editors are seeking a concise summary of the average and extreme conditions of climatic variables of importance to the context of the section, how those statistics relate to the historical climate record, and how those statistics may have varied over the region of interest. In addition, if there were any important weather events in the region, these too should be noted and briefly described.

For Chapters 2–6, the author(s) of a section on a particular variable (e.g., sea surface temperatures or sea ice) should divide their discussion into temporal and spatial behavior of the variable throughout the year, and provide a comparison of the average conditions with the historical record. In some cases, a variable may either not have a sufficient historical record, or the data for the preceding year may not be immediately available. In such cases, it is advisable to discuss the most recently available data (assuming it was not covered by an earlier State of the Climate report), or to report on the "State of the Knowledge" - that is, what is the latest from the peer-reviewed literature on the subject, and what are the plans for improving data collection, interpretation, and access.

For Chapter 7 (Regional Climates), the author(s) of a regional section (e.g., Eastern Africa), should divide their discussion into three parts: (1) Temperature, (2) Precipitation, and (3) Notable Events. In the first section, the authors should describe the average temperature over the region, how it ranks relative to the historical record, the spatial pattern of temperatures over the region (e.g., warmer than normal in the north, cooler than normal in the south), and any notable temperature anomalies (e.g., record warmest in Ethiopia). A similar discussion should follow for precipitation. The notable events section should describe the climatological impacts of extreme or highly unusual weather events (e.g., a severe flood or exceptional drought).

For Appendix 2 (Dataset Sources), a table will be presented that provides:

  1. data source URLS,
  2. the name of the dataset, and
  3. the section(s) in which the dataset is utilized.

Thus, we request that, where applicable, authors provide publicly available URLs for datasets used in their articles to their chapter editor. Please reference Table 2.1 on pp S30-31 in BAMS State of the Climate in 2010 Global Chapter as an example.

Contribution Length:

If possible, please refer to the previous year's State of the Climate report for general guidelines on length for your section or sub-section. The report has grown in length each year, largely due to the addition of new sections. It is therefore important to summarize concisely and not submit extraneous materials.

We kindly request that authors attempt to keep any particular section (e.g., Ocean Carbon, Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclones) to 800–1000 words, and 2–4 figures. Where the author(s) is(are) responsible for a larger section with multiple sub-sections, it is recommended that each primary sub-section be limited to around 750 words and 1–2 figures.

We also request that sidebar authors please limit text to no more than 1000 words with a maximum of 2 supporting figures. Please note that this is not a recommended length, only a recommended maximum. Shorter sidebars are welcomed.

Content and Quality:

The objective of the annual State of the Climate report is to present globally and regionally significant climatic events and trends, and to put these into historical perspective. Here are the primary issues to keep in mind when preparing your submission:

  • Please write something "fresh" and do not submit a climate summary originally written for your agency or office. The best approach is a concise summary of the relevant climatic information written specifically for this report.
  • Please include information from the relevant year (i.e. 2011), and put the analysis of that year into historical perspective. Regional subsections should include a discussion of the temperature and precipitation pattern and trends during the year and any notable weather or climate events that occurred.
  • Please use consistent base periods (as much as possible) when presenting means or anomalies, and include this information in the text, figure captions, and tables where appropriate. Some suggestions for base periods are:
    • 1961–1990 (currently used by WMO)
    • 1971–2000
    • 1981–2010
    • 1901–2000
    • Period of record (If the record is less than 30 years, use of the full period of record is recommended, unless data quality issues preclude it.)
  • Define any climatic indices presented, and appropriately reference each index.
  • Topics should be of global or regional interest, such as significant events and trends. Include only those impacts that were widely significant and can be documented through references to sources and previous studies wherever appropriate.
  • Please include appropriate references in the text and in a list at the end of your submission. Please do not cite any peer-review reference that has not yet been submitted (i.e., one you are planning to submit to a journal but are still working on), or any "gray" literature that has not yet been published. Submitted works are acceptable to cite; however, it is the author's responsibility to notify the editors as soon as a publishing decision has been made.

Text formatting:

All contributions should be submitted electronically. Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) is the preferred format. If you would like to submit your document in another format, please check with the editors before sending your file. Formatting of the text should be kept to a minimum (however, please include super- and sub-script text formatting where appropriate). Here is some basic information on formatting your text:

  • Please follow the AMS guidelines for authors (There is both a brief and a complete version of the guidelines at this link).
  • Text should be double-spaced and in Times New Roman 12-point font.
  • Include appropriate figure captions at the end of your text file.
  • Include a complete reference list at the end of the file (after the figure captions). Any citations without an accompanying reference will be deleted.

Figure formatting:

All figures should be submitted electronically. The following file formats only are acceptable for figures:

  • Postscript (.ps) - preferred
  • Encapsulated Postscript (.eps)
  • Uncompressed Tagged Image File Format (.tif) - 300 dpi resolution minimum

For clarity, you may include lower-resolution copies of your figures in your word processing document. However, we are NOT able to use ANY low-resolution figures in the publication. Only high-resolution figures sent in the above formats will be considered.

Figures should follow these basic guidelines:

  • Information on the figure should be readable when the figure is reduced to 3" x 3" (7.5 cm x 7.5 cm).
  • Arial font should be used for any text, numbers, and labels.
  • Font size should be minimum of 9-point font.
  • All line widths must be a minimum of 1-point. Anything smaller will not print correctly on a commercial press.
  • Degree symbols should accompany all temperature and latitude/longitude numbers
  • Figure titles should NOT be included on the figure.
  • Figure files should be given an explanatory file name (e.g., UK_temp_anomaly_map2011.eps).
  • Colors or color schemes that do not reproduce well in gray-scale should be avoided.
  • The combination of red and green on a figure should be avoided (for colorblindness).
  • Green-to-Tan (wet-to-dry) color ramp is preferred for precipitation figures.
  • Red-to-blue (hot-to-cold) color ramp is preferred for temperature figures.
  • Bold colors are preferred for time series plots.
  • Legends should be placed off to the side if possible.
  • SI units should be used on figure axes.
  • Negative exponents should be used to describe something "per" something (e.g., use m s-1 instead of m/s or instead of meters per second).
  • For multi-panel figures, label (a), (b), (c), etc from left to right by row and place in upper left corner of panel.

Figure captions should be as short and concise as possible. Text and caption information should not overlap. Caption text should include description of figure only.

Language, Style, and Reference Considerations:

The working language of this report is English and all contributions must be in English. For authors for whom English presents some difficulty, those authors are advised to request an initial review of their submission from an English-speaking colleague. Alternatively, those authors may submit their draft submission to the editors at least one month before the deadline, to allow time for review and revision.

It is important that you write in a scientific style, and avoid colloquial wording in your text that many readers may not be familiar with.

Please define ANY acronyms upon their first use [e.g., "... in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) ..."].

Proper references in the AMS style must be included in the text (e.g., Doe and Doe 2005). All submissions must also include a reference list at the end of the submitted text in the AMS style format. Please see the AMS guidelines for authors for complete information.

Example reference (journal article):

Doe, J. J., and J. M. Doe, 2005: Insanity among climatologists: heredity or environment?. J. Imaginary Research, 27, 34-42.

Where a journal article has been submitted, but not yet accepted for publication the author should cite the work as (Doe and Doe 2006, submitted to Imaginary Res.). It will not yet have a corresponding reference.

Deadlines and Timeline:

  • Dec 05, 2011 - Chapter editors send invitation to authors to participate via email.
  • Dec 12, 2011 - Priority deadline for author commitment (or referral to a colleague).
  • Dec 19, 2011 - Absolute deadline for author responses and commitment to participate e-mail.
  • Jan 20, 2012 - Reminder that submissions are due in three weeks.
  • Feb 13, 2012 - Deadline for all submissions (figures and text) to the article. After this date, only certain changes may be made by authors.
  • Feb 27, 2012 - Drafts sent out for internal review (two week reviewer turnaround advised).
  • Apr 09, 2012 - Revised drafts sent to BAMS for external review (two week reviewer turnaround advised)
  • May 25, 2012 - NCDC sends final report to BAMS.
  • Document appears as a supplement to the June 2012 issue of BAMS.


If you cannot comply with these guidelines and deadlines the editors would appreciate if you would suggest other experts in your region or area of expertise who may be interested in contributing material for the State of the Climate article. Thank you.

Adobe PDF Files

To read the State of the Climate reports on this web site, you will need to have, installed on your computer, Adobe Acrobat Reader or other software capable of reading PDF format files. To install Adobe's freeware Acrobat Reader on your computer, please follow: Link to install Acrobat Reader.